When people sing in a choir, their heartbeats are synchronized, so the pulse of the choir members tends to rise and fall in unison. This was demonstrated by a study by the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg which examined the health effects of choir members.
In the research project “Kroppens Partitur” (The Musical Score of the Body), researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy are studying how music, in purely biological terms, affects our body and our health. The objective is to find new forms of use of music for medical purposes, mainly in the context of rehabilitation and preventive care.
In the latest study, published in the open access journal Frontiers in neuroscience, the research group is able to show how musical structure influences the heart rate of choir members.
In December 2012, BjÃ¶rn Vickhoff and his research group brought together fifteen 18-year-olds at Hvitfeltska High School in Gothenburg and organized three different choral exercises for them: humming monotonously, singing the famous Swedish hymn “HÃ¤rlig Ã¤r Jorden” (Belle est la Earth) as well as the chanting of a slow mantra. The heartbeats of the choir members were recorded as they performed in each case.
The results of the study show that the melody and the structure of the music have a direct link with the cardiac activity of the member of the choir; singing in unison has a synchronizing effect so that the heart rate of singers tends to increase and decrease at the same time.
“Singing regulates the activity of the vagus nerve which is involved in our emotional life and our communication with others and which, for example, affects our vocal timbre. Songs with long phrases produce the same effect as breathing exercises. yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise some control over mental states, âsays BjÃ¶rn Vickhoff, lead author of the study.
The positive effects of choral singing on health and well-being are attested by many, although it has only been scientifically studied to a lesser extent. The researchers hypothesize that the health effects result from singing “imposing” calm and regular breathing which has a dramatic effect on heart rate variability – something which, in turn, is believed to have a favorable effect. about health.
“In the case of controlled breathing, the heart rate or pulse decreases during the exhalation during the exhalation and then increases again during the inspiration during the inspiration. This is due to the exhalation. Exhalation activates the vagus nerve which lowers the heart rate which slows down the heart. The medical term for this fluctuation in heart rate the link between respiration and heart rate is RSA and it is most pronounced in young people in good physical condition. and not under stress. Our hypothesis is that singing is a form of regular rhythm, controlled breathing, because the exhalation occurs on the phrases of the song and the inspiration between them, âexplains BjÃ¶rn Vickhoff.
“We already know that choral singing synchronizes the muscle movements and neural activities of singers in large parts of the body. Now we also know that this applies to the heart, to a large extent.”
The research group now wants to investigate whether the biological synchronization of the choristers also creates a shared mental perspective that could be used as a method to strengthen the ability to collaborate.
Wherever playing and singing in unison take place, there is a connection Collective playing and singing is often an expression of a collective will, according to BjÃ¶rn Vickhoff. âJust think of football stadiums, work songs, school hymns, festival processions, religious choirs or military parades. Research shows that synchronized rites contribute to group solidarity. We are now considering testing choral singing as a way to strengthen working relationships. in schools, âhe says.
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